Virgil van Dijk

New boys Norwich thrashed by Liverpool

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Liverpool’s bid for the 2019-20 Premier League title is off to a flying start, as Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds dismantled newly promoted Norwich City, 4-1 at Anfield in the season-opening fixture at Anfield on Friday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Norwich’s return to the PL began as disastrously as it could have done, gifting the European champions an own goal (courtesy of Grant Hanley) inside the season’s first seven minutes. Things only got worse from there.

Mohamed Salah made it 2-0 just 12 minutes later, and the rout was officially on.

Nine minutes later, Virgil Van Dijk made it 3-0.

14 minutes later, it was 4-0 through Divock Origi.


Three things we learned
1. No change of identity for Liverpool, who will continue to suffocate opponents with defensive pressure and attack relentlessly after they win the ball.
2. Liverpool didn’t make any major first-team signings this summer, and that has them looking like a squad that bonded together long ago.
3. Norwich’s commitment to playing (trying to, at least) progressive, attacking soccer is laudable, but might just see them blitzed on a number of occasions this season.

Man of the Match
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – A goal and an assist for the 2017-18 Player of the Year, and he — along with his teammates in red — never had to leave second gear.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for opening weekend | How VAR will work in PL ]


Origi was the architect on the opening goal, as he worked his way down the left side of the penalty area and hit a low cross into the six-yard box. Hanley went for the right-footed clearance but shanked 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

Salah made it three straight seasons of scoring a goal in Liverpool’s PL opener (his fourth straight season, including his final campaign at Roma) and he needed just 19 minutes to do. Roberto Firmino slipped the Egyptian a through ball and Salah stroked it home to double Liverpool’s lead (WATCH HERE).

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule | Predicting the PL table ]

Van Dijk headed home from Salah’s corner kick just before the half-hour mark (WATCH HERE), the final nail in the coffin of Norwich’s hopes for a shocking comeback. Origi waltzed toward the penalty spot and headed home Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s brilliant bullet cross three minutes before halftime, for good measure.

The worst news for Liverpool came in the form of a curious injury to goalkeeper Alisson. Upon taking a goal kick, the Brazilian appeared to injure his right leg. The pain appeared to affect him prior to kicking the ball, as he quickly glanced over his shoulder as if something or someone had touched him from behind.

Norwich’s Teemu Pukki led the EFL Championship with 29 goals last season, and the Finnish forward picked up right where he left off with a goal in his PL debut, in the 64th minute. It was the lone bright spot of the day for the Canaries, but perhaps a comforting sign they’ve got a consistent goalscorer in the top flight.

AT THE HALF: Liverpool rampant, Norwich nightmare in PL opener

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This is probably not how Norwich City saw their return to the Premier League going: down 1-0 after seven minutes; down 2-0 after 19 minutes; down 3-0 after 28 minutes; down 4-0 after 42 minutes.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

Alas, that’s the reality of visiting Anfield, home of European champions Liverpool, on the opening day of the 2019-20 season. Daniel Farke’s side, which stormed to the EFL Championship title last season, has been undressed and badly exposed by one of the world’s best teams — no shame in that, but the goal-differential column is taking a hammering already.

A quick rundown of the goalscorers (thus far): Grant Hanley (own goal), Mohamed Salah (WATCH BELOW), Virgil Van Dijk (WATCH ABOVE) and Divock Origi.

Hit the link above to watch the second half, and check back on PST for a full recap and reaction from players and managers after the final whistle.

Fifty fearful predictions for 2019-20 Premier League season

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We’re about to start 250-plus days of frenetic, teeth-grinding, pulsating days of Premier League football, so what do you say we have a little fun with what could happen over the next nine months.

[ MORE: Transfer records for all 20 PL clubs ]


1. Virgil Van Dijk will win the 2019 Ballon d’Or.

2. Arsenal will be better than most expect en route to winning a trophy this year.

3. Man City and Spurs will make the deepest runs in the UEFA Champions League (unless drawn against each other early in the knockouts).

4. Harry Kane will be near the top of the Premier League goal charts in August, bucking his early season trend.

5. He won’t win the Golden Boot, though, as Mohamed Salah earns that honor.

6. Christian Pulisic will register double-digit assists for Chelsea, but finish just shy of double-digit goals.

(Photo by David Geieregger/SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

7. It will be the other way around for Newcastle record signing Joelinton.

8. Aston Villa’s Dean Smith will finish second in PL Manager of the Year voting, and only because not enough voters will select someone outside the Top Four.

9. Ederson will win the Premier League’s Golden Glove.

10. Norwich City will be the first team to sack its manager.

11. Alexandre Lacazette will have more total goals+assists than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

12. So will Nicolas Pepe.

13. But Aubameyang will finish tied with Harry Kane for second-most goals in the Premier League.

14. Raheem Sterling will win Premier League Players’ Player of the Year.

15. Dele Alli will start less than half of Spurs league matches.

16. A team will be relegated despite reaching the 40 point mark.

17. Watford will lead the league in yellow and red cards.

18. Either Burnley’s Sean Dyche or Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe will take a new coaching job before the end of the season.

19. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will return from injury in the winter and become a key piece of some team’s season, whether at Chelsea or on a half-season loan.

20. Arsenal will lead the league in expected goals per game.

21. Everton will be in the Top Four come Nov. 2’s visit from Tottenham.

22. Liverpool will lose the UEFA Super Cup to Chelsea in penalty kicks, and penalty kicks v. Liverpool will become just about the most useless, annoying buzz topic in English football.

23. Man City won’t lose until Dec. 14 at Arsenal.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

24. At least one $30 million-plus summer transfer will be sold or loaned in January.

25. Once healthy, Kieran Tierney will have a better first 22 games at Arsenal than fellow Scottish import fullback Andy Robertson had at Liverpool.

26. Sheffield United will be top half of the table at the first international break.

27. Marcus Rashford will score 10 goals and 10 assists for Manchester United, but it will be regarded as not enough due to unrealistic expectations.

28. Burnley will not sit above 10th at any point after Week 1.

29. Brighton’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh will rise from his terribly disappointing debut season in England to score at least one otherworldly goal.

30. Mike Ashley will start a new or renewed takeover rumor right before the January transfer window.

31. Marko Arnautovic‘s brother will link his brother with a return to the Premier League in January.

32. VAR will decide a critical, hairline goal in a Man City-Liverpool match.

33. Liverpool will go unbeaten at home.

34. Everton will win a Merseyside Derby.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

35. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have as many assists as Trent Alexander-Arnold.

36. Josh Sims‘ loan stint with the New York Red Bulls will make him an in-demand transfer target for a PL team in January.

37. Speaking of Southampton, Saints will be in the conversation for a Europa League place before the festive season (Ultimately, the season flames out).

38. At least one non-Top Six team will win a domestic cup.

39. Watford and Crystal Palace see the biggest drop in point total from last season to this.

40. Southampton and Everton make the biggest leap in point total from last season to this.

41. Alexis Sanchez will end up starting matches for Manchester United.

42. Olivier Giroud will match his Premier League best for goals in a season (16, twice).

43. Everton will qualify for Europe.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

44. Andy Carroll will score against former clubs West Ham and Liverpool.

45. Ismaila Sarr will score 10 goals as Watford’s record transfer.

46. It will be a breakout season in England for Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, who will look more like the force he was in the Bundesliga.

47. Gabriel Jesus will return to double-digit goals for Man City.

48. West Ham’s Felipe Anderson will post the most assists of any player not on Liverpool or Man City.

49. Jonas Lossl will start 10 or more matches for Everton.

50. Man City will threepeat, and the title will be decided before the final week of the season.

1 day to go until new PL season: Who’s the No. 1 player?

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Some seasons, in some leagues, there’s no doubt to the identity of the No. 1 attraction.

Take this year: Lionel Messi remains the brightest star in the world La Liga, and Kylian Mbappe is in France with hopes of joining his orbit. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably still the one in Serie A.

[ MORE: Complete list of PL transfers ]

The Premier League’s had that before, though surely the partisan world might argue with the statuses of Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, and even Eden Hazard.

This year, though? Good luck.

A refreshed and healthy Kevin De Bruyne remains a wonder, Raheem Sterling has become one of the most complete attackers in the world, and there’s an argument to be made that Bernardo Silva is the straw that stirs Man City’s drink. And if you have trouble picking between three guys on a single team’s attack, it’s probably unfair to say either is the top dog for the league.

Celebrating Virgil Van Dijk as a potential Ballon d’Or winner is righteous in a year in which Liverpool was able to eliminate the best player in the world from the Champions League, but Mohamed Salah is still rightly the most watched man at Anfield. The Reds don’t get anywhere prominent without either.

A certain tall Englishman from North London would love you to consider his credentials, even if his health has stopped him from producing truly gaudy numbers. Harry Kane missed eight matches and still finished within five goals of a Golden Boot, a season after bagging 30 but being overshadowed by Salah’s 32.

Paul Pogba is still a wizard, and last season saw him finally put up some numbers resembling the player purchased from Juventus on the heels of an eight-goal, 12-assist season.

Which point of Arsenal’s three-pronged attack is its sharpest? Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the most powerful players of his generation, while Alexandre Lacazette‘s intelligence as a creator is next level. And yet new boy Nicolas Pepe may end up being the best of the bunch, an attacker who willed Lille to second in Ligue 1 and had more total goals and assists than any player not named Mbappe.

There are other names people will want to read here. Kante remains a machine at the heart of anything Chelsea wants to achieve in a season. Ederson is Brazil’s answer to Manuel Neuer in his prime, but Liverpool supporters see Alisson Becker as a fabled hero (and we know a goalkeeper isn’t the answer to this question).

Manchester City wins Community Shield

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It took penalty kicks to separate Liverpool and Manchester City in a wasteful but entertaining Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

Claudio Bravo‘s second round stop of Georginio Wijnaldum met perfect finishing from the reigning domestic treble champions after a 1-1 score line over 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

The Reds were dominant in the second half, but only found one goal before penalties.

Sterling tucked a delightful David Silva flick under Alisson Becker in the first half, but Joel Matip nodded a late equalizer past Bravo in the second half.

Leroy Sane limped off after just 11 minutes with an injury which could jeopardize a nine-figure deal to Bayern Munich.

[ MORE: Mandzukic agrees Man Utd terms ]

Sane lashed into the side netting after Raheem Sterling picked the pocket of an unaware Joe Gomez in the fourth minute.

At the other end, Roberto Firmino juggled to set up a left-footed lash right to Claudio Bravo.

The Reds probably should’ve been up when Firmino slipped Mohamed Salah into the box, but the Egyptian couldn’t turn his shot near the goal.

Sterling could, however, side-footing a flick from David Silva under Alisson Becker, who would’ve liked to have done better.

Salah looked for a quick response, cooking Oleksandr Zinchenko on the right before missing the near post again.

Kevin De Bruyne was also very much in preseason form in terms of finishing, and his scuffed shot turned into a Sterling chance which Alisson did well to save.

Sterling then beat the Liverpool line and Alisson only to hit the far post in the 48th minute.

The Reds were all over City in the early second half, and Liverpool fans were hoping the Goal Decision System would tell them Virgil Van Dijk leveled off a corner kick to no avail.

Salah then hit the post after Sterling partially blocked a Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick.

Sterling should’ve made it 2-0 again, but the relatively wasteful forward dribbled directly into Alisson.

If Salah, Sterling, and De Bruyne were in peak finishing form, this could’ve easily been a 4-3 match, with the last name scuffing a low shot to Alisson in the 73rd.

Van Dijk kept a rally alive to set up Matip for a headed equalizer in the final 15 minutes.

Bravo made a fine save on Naby Keita in the 83rd minute.

Salah’s umpteenth chance of the game could’ve decided it in stoppage time, but Walker made an incredible goal line clearance and the ensuing corner was poorly served above the fray.